“Easy Travel” is a ten-part series focusing on how to reduce vacation shock, anticipate obstacles, and be prepared when things don’t go your way. If you would like to contribute to our future reports and share your experience as a source, you can click here to complete this quick form.
When Jon Gieselman took over as president of Expedia Brands in 2021, his travel rewards cards were integrated with him. He and his assistant added them to the company’s system for business travel, but as he was going through his portfolio and reading them, he realized.
“‘That’s the problem to be solved,'” he recalled thinking in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY. “So many people have this same problem. They have all these programs, all these cards. It is impossible to keep track of it. »
Expedia Group is currently rolling out a tool to help travelers simplify. One Key, which officially launched in the United States on Monday, is a unique loyalty program that brings together the company’s flagship brands, Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo. The company will bring the program to other countries in 2024.
Here’s what travelers need to know.
Learn more: Best travel insurance
How does the Expedia Group One Key program work?
Membership in One Key is free, and members can achieve different tiers by accumulating Travel Elements, the different eligible parts of trips that travelers can book through the three brands. These include:
- Nights in hotels, vacation rentals and cruises
- Daily car rental and more
They must be worth at least $25 to qualify, before taxes and fees, and travelers can view all eligibility criteria here.
Members start at the blue tier when they sign up and can upgrade to the silver tier if they collect five travel items in a year. The program is designed to serve road warriors and casual travelers alike, and Gieselman said the company is working to make it easier to earn the status.
“The example I always give is if you book a round trip and three nights in a hotel with your wife, you’re good, you’re Silver,” he said. Those who have reached 15 Travel Items in a year will upgrade to Gold and reach Platinum at 30 Travel Items.
When members spend money on any of the three platforms (Expedia, Hotels.com, Vrbo), they earn OneKeyCash, which they can apply to future bookings on any of the same platforms.
For every US dollar spent – excluding taxes and fees – they’ll earn 2% in OneKeyCash on qualifying hotels, car rentals, cruises and more. Travelers will earn 0.2% on flights, if booked a la carte. However, if they book flights as part of a package, the price of the package – including flights – is 2%.
What should I pay attention to when using OneKeyCash to book?
There are other fine print to keep in mind: members who want to book a flight with OneKeyCash, for example, will also need to have enough accumulated for the total cost, including taxes and fees. They also cannot add extras such as seat assignments or checked baggage, and will need to purchase these after purchasing their ticket.
Users can access One Key on Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo sites, or their mobile apps.
Will my existing Expedia and Hotels.com rewards transfer to One Key?
While One Key marks the first loyalty program for Vrbo, Expedia and Hotels.com already have rewards programs – but existing members needn’t worry.
Expedia Rewards points earned on its US site will be automatically transferred. Every 100 points is worth $1 in OneKeyCash. Points earned on international Expedia sites will remain in users’ non-US Expedia Rewards accounts.
For users who have created their account on the US Hotels.com site, confirmed Hotels.com Rewards stamps or reward nights will also be automatically converted to OneKeyCash. This applies to bookings made on US and International sites.
If you won a $100 reward night, it will be converted to OneKeyCash at the same value, and 10% of the stamp value will also be converted.
From our partners:Vote for the best credit card rewards and travel loyalty programs on USA TODAY 10Best
Even if a user created their account on Hotels.com’s US site, if they only have buffers or reward nights from bookings on their non-US sites, these will not be converted and will remain in their Hotels.com Rewards account. Pending stamps earned for reservations on non-US sites prior to the launch of One Key will also not become OneKeyCash.
“Your Expedia Rewards and Hotels.com Rewards tier status will not only be protected, but we’ll ensure that all qualifying activity in 2022 and 2023 (until the date you become a One Key member) on your Expedia and Hotels accounts .com counts toward your tier status,” Expedia said on its website.
Travel items collected in 2023 – including qualifying bookings prior to becoming a One Key member – count towards 2024 member status. However, Vrbo bookings made before launch do not count towards your 2024 status.
After that, status for a future year will be determined by the travel items a member has accrued as of December 31, with the count reset on January 1.
What are the benefits of being a One Key member?
Travelers using One Key can benefit from the program as soon as they join. Members, including Blue tier users, can save with member prices on select flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and activities.
Perks improve with higher status. Silver members, for example, receive priority travel assistance (the company will work to give them faster access to one of its agents, but all travelers can reach an agent within one minute 90% of the time, according to an Expedia spokesperson). At the highest tier, Platinum members get the most benefits, including Platinum VIP support and up to $100 off hotels to celebrate the launch of One Key.
Silver, Gold and Platinum members can also earn additional OneKeyCash when booking at VIP Access properties on Expedia and Hotels.com.
Travelers can also earn OneKeyCash in addition to some of their other travel rewards programs. With a large family of travel brands, Gieselman thinks Expedia Group can make a “pretty big shot” in streamlining the sometimes confusing travel rewards process.
“If you could just make it easy to use, easy to earn, you know, it doesn’t have to be Tuesday and sunny and the planets have to be aligned for you to actually take advantage of the rewards, my goodness, that would be kind of big,” he said.
Which travel rewards program do you prefer? For what?
Nathan Diller is a mainstream travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at [email protected].